While reading an article on lifehacker.com on how to Stop the Snark I came across one mister Roger S. Gil, marriage and family therapist, giving an example of snark “Are you rolling your eyes at the young couple holding hands?” and tells you to immediately question your inner thought process when you do. “Ask yourself why, and tell yourself that being in the infatuation stage of romance is great regardless of the fact that you may have had bad experiences in the past.”
I would like to go one step beyond such reflections and incorporate the physicality of the situation into the solution. Why do we roll our eyes at things? What does this physical movement signify? Hang on now, we are going a scientifically ungrounded philosophical stretch;
We move our eyes away because there is something that we don’t want to see. Yes, this sounds ever so simple. We do not want to see something because there is an unwanted association or emotion triggered by what we are looking at. In the example that Gil mentions a young couple is CLEARLY in love is and instead of feeling that love and marvelling at the human capacity for intimacy, you snark. Now, would that be because you do not -or do no longer- experience what you are seeing? Are you looking away because looking at this display of affection confronts you with something you are missing? Since we’ve developed as highly individual beings our own gains and losses tend to take precedent over empathy (which means attempting to share a feeling with someone, by no means does this have to be a negative feeling) and your first emotion is inward, self-centred. It zaps through you and hones in on this negative emotion of loss or jealousy. Here you have a problem; something is making you uncomfortable and we do not want to be uncomfortable. Dissonance occurs between your current and your desired state. Instead of dealing with your negative emotion it seems like a much easier and much more reasonable option to deal with the thing that upset you.
So you look away.
But snarking is not just looking away; it is ‘rolling your eyes’. This describes a very specific movement chocker-block with cultural meaning. “Hello, something that can or needs to be ridiculed is going on right here, is everybody seeing this and agreeing with me?” Your eyes are attempting to get everyone in sight with you on this. Even if there is no-one around to be social with at the exact moment when this rolling occurs, it is a facial expression that is meant to communicate something to our fellow beings.
Following the movement: First you look away (to avoid something internal) and then you look around (to gather support on your hypothesis that the object you are NOT looking at is what is causing problems).
So if you wish to reduce the snark in your life I challenge you to change not just your end-conclusions, but your physical action. It is really simple: Look.
When you feel yourself getting ready to roll away, stop and focus on what it is that you are trying to avoid. Stare at it if you can.
This might trigger something unpleasant inside you. Let it. Don’t try to deal with it then and there. Just acknowledge that you are human and have a wide range of emotions.
Now here is the kicker; apply empathy.
Allow the love that is shining from this young couple so violently that it annoyed you, to touch you. Try feeling it from their perspective.
Added insight on the subject:
Just rolled my eyes at a woman skipping happily across 42nd Street. Then I realized I’M the asshole.
— Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) May 31, 2012